The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tech ready for 3-in-1 leap
- TV, phone and Net: cheaper, quicker

New Delhi, July 4: Television, phone and data transfer in a single network at a cost 30-40 per cent lower than existing rates could become available if the government accepts the telecom regulator’s suggestion.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will recommend that next generation technology be allowed in the National Telecom Policy 2005 to enable operators to offer a bouquet of services in one network, also known as Internet protocol-based network.

If and when this technology is adopted ' the West has already embraced it ' a subscriber will be able to get his TV, phone and Internet connection from a single network.

Pradeep Baijal, the chairman of Trai, said: “Indians by nature are entertainment and information hungry. This is applicable not just to people in urban areas but also in rural and semi-rural areas. Operators will be able to use the benefits of the technology to feed customer demands. As a regulator, we feel that there should not be any regulatory impediments to using a technology.”

“But as a regulator we will ensure that operators are not forced to opt for any (particular) technology,” Baijal added.

The technology is also claimed to be the answer to the need for telecom and information technology-based services in rural areas ' of a quality that is available to the urban subscriber.

Telecom operators are not ready yet to commit to the new technology. A senior executive of the mobile service, AirTel, said: “It is not possible to lay a new network in India. It will be an additional burden. If the regulator is willing to suggest to the government that those migrating to the technology will get financial incentive, it may be possible.”

Baijal, however, believes that those who do not move in step with the new technology will face tough competition.

“Today, the US and UK are in the process of implementing the technology. Can we afford to ignore it' As a nation, we should not lose our competitiveness by not opting for the most advanced technology,” he said.

Telecom companies have made huge investments in creating the infrastructure ' mobile operators alone have spent Rs 22,000 crore.

To switch to the new technology, they will have to uproot the existing network and buy new software and hardware. On a rough estimate, every kilometre of new network will cost Rs 10-15 lakh.

A technical expert in Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd said: “It will certainly bring down the network cost and customers may pay 30-40 per cent less for various services like cable TV and phone. But the initial cost of uprooting the existing network will be too high.”

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, with more than 1.2 crore subscribers, is also reluctant. “We are aware that countries like the US have opted for it, but we feel it is better to wait. The regulator is free to recommend. But BSNL will not be found lacking in offering the best to its customers,” said a director.

In the UK, uprooting has already started and once the new network is in place, operators are expected to save '113 million a year.

The regulator hopes the government will create an environment that will enable operators to choose the option.

Trai will also push the technology as the most preferred one for rural areas in a consultation paper it plans to release during the month.

“Initially, the operators did not go to rural markets and focused only on the urban markets. The reason was establishment of an easy and robust network at lower cost. The new technology can do the same trick for the rural market,” said Baijal.

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